Best-selling car colours in the UK

Sales figures reveal that conservative colours are more popular with new car buyers...

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What Car? team
28 January 2019

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The latest registration figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) and Traders have revealed the nation’s favourite car colours.

There was a new best seller in 2018, although it didn’t break ranks from the conservative paint schemes that have remained popular with 21st century buyers.

2016 Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 140 ST-Line review

1. Grey

In 2018, grey became the UK’s most popular car colour since the SMMT’s records began, with 495,127 new models bearing the shade and a 20.9% market share – up 1.2% on 2017.

The country’s three best selling new cars – the Ford Fiesta, the Volkswagen Golf and the Vauxhall Corsa – all sold more in grey than any other colour, as did the Mini hatchback and the Ford Kuga SUV, which were the UK’s seventh and ninth best-selling cars in 2018.

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2. Black

It was the most popular colour for a new car in 2017, but black fell to second place last year, with 478,154 sales and a market share of 20.2%. It’s a favourite with buyers: it was the best seller between 2009 and 2012 and hasn’t been absent from the top three since 2001.

It was also the most popular colour for the Nissan Qashqai, the Volkswagen Polo and the Mercedes A-Class in 2018, which were 2018’s fourth, sixth and eight best selling cars respectively.

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3. White

White paintwork often divides opinion among buyers but it’s been a popular choice this decade. It came third in 2018 and 2017 but it was the best selling colour from 2013 to 2016 and second in 2012.

A total of 432,207 cars were sold in white last year, giving it an 18.3% market share, and it was also the top choice for the UK’s 10th best selling car, the Kia Sportage.

Citroën C4 Cactus

4. Blue

It’s still popular, but blue isn’t as common as it used to be. It was the UK’s favourite in 1997, 1998 and 1999, dropped to second place in 2000, to third in 2005 and has since been either fourth or fifth. It had a 16.1% market share in 2018, with 381,591 cars sold.

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5. Red

The classic colour for performance cars, red was fifth in 2018 with 236,522 registrations and a 10% market share. With the exception of 2011, 2012 and 2017, it has been the UK’s fifth most popular colour since 2004, though darker, metallic versions tend to be more popular than classic flat red these days.

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6. Silver

It was the UK’s favourite colour between 2000 and 2008 but silver’s popularity has gradually tailed off and it was sixth in 2018 with 219,840 registrations and a 9.3% market share.

Audi A3 Cabriolet

Best of the rest

At least 200,000 cars were painted in each of the UK’s six best selling colours in 2018, while the top three – grey, black and white – accounted for 59% of all new cars sold. A handful of more obscure paint schemes made up the rest of the top 10, though.

Orange was seventh with 26,042 registrations, which sounds an obscure choice, but that includes darker, burnt orange which can be popular with certain models. Green was eighth and appeared on 21,167 new cars, while bronze and beige were ninth and 10th, with 9630 and 9303 registrations respectively.

Why are certain colours more popular than others?

Sober shades are popular because buyers have become more conservative over time and such colours typically help cars to hold their value. The likes of grey, black and white are unobtrusive and appeal to a broad range of buyers, which means a car in that colour will often be worth more second-hand – or at least easier to sell. Though it often costs more, metallic paint is a desirable option and will also add value to a car.

That wasn’t always the case, because red and blue were among the best selling colours in the late 1990s. Go back even further, and many cars in the 60s and 70s had odd paint schemes such as brown and mustard yellow. 

The exact affect of colour varies depending on the type of car, though, as some models can pull off shades that others can’t. Read our guide on the best colours for car resale values for a full explanation.

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